Story & Photos by Scott Schaefer

Students at Burien’s St. Francis of Assisi School this week donated over $6,300 worth of medical supplies and cash they’ve collected to ship to the war-torn country through the Ukrainian Association of Washington.

On Tuesday, April 12, 2022, 7th and 8th grade students loaded 20 or so boxes of medical supplies they had collected into the back of a van owned by Oksana Bilobran, whose daughter attends the school and who helped create and organize the drive. In addition to living in Burien, Bilobran also has family in Ukraine.

The drive was coordinated by Emily Fiorito and Caroline Toy, Co-Advisers for the St. Francis chapter of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). They encouraged and helped students collect medical supplies from April 4–8, all of which will be shipped to the country soon.

This flyer was used to help guide students to collect medical supply donations.

Many students also wore the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag on Tuesday to show their solidarity.

Bilobran’s daughter Yeva is an NJHS member and came up with the idea of helping Ukrainian counterparts by holding a medical supplies drive. Yeva connected with a fellow student also named Yeva in Ukraine, and they helped tutor each other in their languages during the pandemic. The Ukrainian Yeva arranged for a Zoom call, which was attended by 120 students Tuesday morning. St. Francis’ Ukrainian counterparts are located in Lviv, near the Polish border. They are all still safe, but bomb strikes and air raids and bomb shelters are now a regular part of their lives. Some of their parents are still able to work, but others – like a father who’s an airport worker – can’t due to the dangers there.

Here’s video showing the Zoom call, courtesy Caroline Toy:

Fiorito and and Toy were excited to have the kids do something to help the people of Ukraine.

“I know Emily would agree that it it has meant a lot to she and I, and our greater school community, as well,” Toy said.

Also on hand was a grateful Liliya Kovalenko, President of the Ukrainian Association of Washington, whose parents are still in that country, living in Morshyn, a small city located in the Eastern Carpathian Foothills within Ukraine’s Lviv Oblast region. Kovalenko was able to visit her parents during a recent supply donation, but they refused to leave their home when she asked them to come with her. So far they have been safe, and “are doing okay,” she told The B-Town Blog.

Donated supplies that were loaded into Bilobran’s van won’t be shipped to Ukraine until more donations/supplies come in, because they need to fill an airplane with supplies before transport can happen. Organizers also had to conduct a full inventory of supplies for TSA/customs.

Here’s a video of the donated medical supplies, courtesy Caroline Toy:

And another showing students carrying and loading boxes of donated supplies on Tuesday:

Below are photos of the event:

Yes, that’s Oksana Bilobran squeezed into the back of her van, helping students unload their donated medical supplies.

Students were also featured on KOMO News on Tuesday:

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